President Trump has overturned former president Obama’s decision two months ago to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline is strongly opposed by environmentalists and Native Americans. The Sioux are now looking to go to court over the issue. John Dyer reports from Boston.
American President Donald Trump has given the green light to the Dakota Access pipeline, spurring Native Americans, environmentalists and others to vow to continue their sit-ins and protests against the project that they said would run through sacred land.
“As native peoples, we have been knocked down again,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault in statement. “But we will get back up, we will rise above the greed and corruption that has plagued our peoples since first contact.”
Boosting domestic energy production
The decision announced Tuesday came two weeks after Trump ordered an expedited review of the USD 3.8 billion project to boost domestic energy production and create jobs.
“Today’s announcement will allow for the final step, which is granting of the easement,” Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer told Congress in a hearing, referring to approvals to run the pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. “Once that it done, we will have completed all the tasks in the presidential memorandum.”
Trumping Obama’s order
The nearly 1,900-kilometre pipeline would bring 470,000 barrels of oil pumped via fracking in the shale fields of North Dakota to reach oil terminals in Illinois every day.
Trump’s order superseded former President Barack Obama’s directive to the Army Corps of Engineers two months ago to determine other paths for the line.
Demonstrators in a sprawling camp near the proposed lake crossing celebrated Obama’s decision at the time but said they would remain protesting in case the decision was overturned.
Sioux plans to go to court
The Sioux tribe’s attorney, Jan Hasselman, said she would file a lawsuit in federal court to block the pipeline. The tribe maintains the pipe could pollute their drinking water and would cross tribal land that enjoys special cultural protections.
“The Obama administration correctly found that the Tribe’s treaty rights must be respected and that the easement should not be granted without further review and consideration of alternative crossing locations,” Hasselman said.
“Trump’s reversal of that decision continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian tribes and a violation of treaty rights.”
Republicans welcome the move
The state’s public officials welcomed the move, suggesting the courts might be the tribe’s last stand.
Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican and friend to the energy industry, welcomed the move.
“Our nation needs new energy infrastructure, which means we must have a process to build safe, efficient and environmentally sound projects like pipelines and power lines,” Hoeven said in a statement.
Pipeline will bring jobs
Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, said she didn’t support the pipeline but admitted the protesters would likely fail in their battle to stop the pipeline.
Tribal members and others should look on the bright side and welcome the jobs and energy-based growth has transformed the state’s economy in the last decade, she said.
“For the North Dakota families, workers and tribes who have felt the impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict every day — today’s announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brings this issue one step closer to final resolution — and delivers the certainty and clarity I’ve been demanding,” said Heitkamp in a statement.
Young environmentalists flock to Standing Rock
Obama’s 18-year-old daughter, Malia, was seen at the protest camp last month.
But the popularity of the camp as a destination for young environmentalists and others led Archambault to request in his statement that people stay home or participate in a planned march in Washington next month to draw more attention to the cause.
The tribe has complained that protesters were leaving trash and debris and damaging the land.
“Please respect our people and do not come to Standing Rock and instead exercise your First Amendment rights and take this fight to your respective state capitols, to your members of Congress and to Washington, DC,” Archambault said.